Letterman & Colbert: Two Comics Who Know What’s Going On.

Filed Under Satire

This month’s Utne Reader has a cover story entitled “Want to Know What’s Really Going on? Ask a Comic”, focusing on the upsurge in satire during President Bush’s second term.

One of the interesting parts of the article is how the writer David Schimke tries to distinguish the current crop of comics from their predecessors. The example he gives is Stephen Colbert and his post-White House Correspondents Dinner appearance on David Letterman. He claims that Colbert made Letterman “as uncomfortable as he had the president’s apologists.” To Schimke, Letterman doesn’t seem to get Colbert for whatever reason - including the very dubious idea that Letterman recognizes that his comic persona is of the past.

I’ve found the appearance on YouTube, and I don’t really see Letterman being uncomfortable here. True, there’s not a lot of riffing with Colbert, but what I see is someone who’s grown comfortable enough as a performer (well, as comfortable as Letterman can be) to play straight man for a little while. He’s helping Colbert look good. There’s even a little joy from Letterman in not seeing one of Colbert’s punchlines coming.

Also considering Colbert was on the show to promote the Strangers with Candy movie, a movie that Letterman’s Worldwide Pants produced, I think it’s fair to say Letterman gets Colbert’s brand of humor.

Besides it’s not important how Letterman handles the Bill O’Reilly parody, but rather the real Bill O’Reilly. This is what discomfort looks like. (A great little detail: notice that Letterman stirs O’Reilly’s drink with one of his pencils prior to bringing out the Fox commentator.)

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Posted by jesse on 09/26  at  11:24 PM

For real, he seems to like Colbert well enough. Letterman is always a bit standoffish. And Bill O’Reilly is a fucking dick, not because he is a republican, but because he is a fucking dick, period.

Posted by Scott Rogowsky on 10/03  at  05:31 PM

Todd, This may be hard to believe but I stumbled upon that same issue of Utne Magazine in my college bookstore, and intrigued by the cover story I read about Colbert’s appearance on Letterman.  And I then went to YouTube and found the clip, and had the exact same reaction as you did—I didn’t see anything too unusual in the clip to warrant Schimke’s claims.  What’s more, this appearance Schimke mentions was Colbert’s third on the show in less than a year (9/2/05, 12/14/05, 6/14/06), and in none of them did Colbert appear as his character, nor was there any apparant discomfort on the part of either comedian.  I don’t know what author Schimke was thinking, but it’s strange to find a kindred spirit in an Utne-reading, YouTube-investigating, comedy-loving kind of way.

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